Smart watches

Dr Louise Buchanan talks heart health and smartwatches :: North Cumbria Integrated Care

Dr. Louise Buchanan is a Consultant Cardiologist and Associate Medical Director, caring for patients with various heart conditions at Cumberland Infirmary and West Cumberland Hospital.

She was recently asked to appear on a national radio station to talk about the heart health benefits of smartwatches. This followed reports from Andrew Thompson from Dunbartonshire in Scotland whose smartwatch had alerted him that his heartbeat was extremely low. When he asked his GP about it, he was referred for a pacemaker – it may have saved his life as he had no symptoms to alert him otherwise.

Dr Buchanan explained: “Smartwatches themselves shouldn’t be used as a diagnostic tool – they don’t let you know you have heart disease. What they do is alert you to trends that may indicate something is wrong. Mr Thompson’s watch alerted him to the fact that his heart rate was low at certain times during the same week, particularly when he was sleeping.


“If your smartwatch repeatedly alerts you to the suggestion that something is out of the ordinary, it is important to let your doctor know. This is important even if you have no other symptoms, but especially if there are You may also experience symptoms of shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, or chest pain, relevant tests can then be arranged and treatment given as needed.


“However, if there is a one-off abnormality without symptoms, that would not be of concern.


“Technology has grown tremendously and with the information available now with smartwatches, it can help people identify problems but also help cardiologists understand patient symptoms.”


“Smartwatches are also great for tracking fitness. Not only can heart rate be monitored to ensure the correct range during exercise, but it can also monitor steps, calories and sleep, all of which are important for a healthy lifestyle.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key to preventing the risk of developing heart disease and preventing heart attacks. Your smartwatch can highlight heart rate patterns that may signal a problem, but it’s also important for people to realize the symptoms of heart attacks.

Dr Buchanan added: ‘The NHS has launched a campaign to help the public better understand the symptoms of a heart attack. Indeed, a survey found that more than half didn’t know that sweating, dizziness, indigestion-like chest pains and nausea were also symptoms of a heart attack. If there are symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or blackouts, the GP should be contacted.


“The GP will take a history, do a clinical examination and blood tests if necessary. They can perform an electrocardiogram. Depending on this, the general practitioner may decide to refer to cardiology services.


“Across North Cumbria we want people to dial 999 as soon as they start to show symptoms and can be taken by ambulance to the Cumberland Infirmary Cardiac Center where we are providing treatment for 24/7 emergency, which can save lives.

Common signs and symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • chest pain or discomfort in the chest that comes on suddenly and does not go away. It may feel like pressure, squeezing or squeezing
  • the pain may spread to your left or right arm or may spread to your neck, jaw, back, or stomach
  • you may also feel sick, sweaty, dizzy, or short of breath
  • Other less common symptoms include a sudden feeling of anxiety that may feel like a panic attack or excessive coughing or wheezing.